Scientists Are Working On A Chip That Zaps People To Help Them Combat The Scourge Of Obesity

Losing weight is never easy. For many, getting rid of excess weight is tantamount to impossible no matter what exercise regimen or diet they follow. To help combat the scourge of obesity, scientists have developed a new type of microchip that can reduce a person’s need to eat in excess.

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The chip, which is called a responsive neurostimulation system, or RNS, was originally developed by NeuroPace, a biotechnology company. NeuroPace originally intended to use the RNS to help people with epilepsy, but recently discovered that it could be useful in deterring obesity as well. In people with epilepsy, the chip detects brain signals that are common prior to the outset of a seizure. Once this pattern is detected, the RNS sends out a shock to prevent the seizure before it is even felt by the patient.

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Researchers with Stanford University are leading the effort to determine if the chip can be used to help stop binge eating. In a paper released with the Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists, scientists revealed that the chip was being used on mice to see if it will help patients with obesity. Stanford is now moving on to human trials, implanting the RNS in six volunteers over the course of the next five years.

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Stanford is being very methodical in how it goes about the study. The volunteers will have the chip implanted in their brains for about six months before the electrical stimulation is applied to the area. This six-month period will help researchers narrow down what type of electrical stimulation precedes binge eating in the volunteers. In total, the volunteers will have the RNS implanted in their brains for about 18 months at a time.

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In an interview with Elemental, Dr. Casey Halpern said that the chip was only being looked at as a solution in extreme cases of obesity. Researchers have thus far only allowed people with a BMI of 45 or over into the study. These patients have also failed to lose weight through more traditional treatments, such as behavioral therapy and gastric bypass surgery.

Dr. Halpern stressed that he feels that the only people who would need this type of treatment are those whose condition is so out of control that they are dying from obesity. Concurrent studies are also researching the effect that deep brain stimulation has on obesity. These studies concentrated on the hypothalamus, which is the center for hunger and satiety in the brain.

What do you think of Stanford’s new study? Do you think that this type of technology will be useful in helping those with obesity?

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